Contract converters can help their clients – converters and printers – control their overhead costs and speed time to market. They can also leverage their expertise in particular processes, so that their clients can better hone in on what they’re good at. As you might imagine, a successful contract converter is more than just a conventional converter’s business partner. They’re an extension of their client’s brand.
We recently caught up with some notable contract, or toll, converters in the industry that leverage their pouch-making prowess to help their clients grow their brands.
This Columbus, Ohio-based company works with more than 30 converters, producing 300-plus million total packages a year. The company has more than 50 total production lines in its facility, which includes a dozen solely dedicated to pouch making.
“We make Inno-Lok film, pinch-bottom pet food bags, quad-seal pouches, doyen (auxiliary gusset), spouts and a multitude of other pouch formats,” notes Paul Unrue, Atlapac president. “We run a large array of closure types as well.”
In fact, Unrue says that Atlapac-made bags and pouches can be found just about everywhere – from farmers markets to dollar stores to convenience stores. Though Atlapac was founded back in the mid-1980s, the company didn’t truly take off until it added pouch making in the late ’90s. It’s been a strength ever since.
“We have proven that outsourcing to Atlapac will lower your total cost,” Unrue says. “Our core competencies are based upon ultimate yield (low scrap) and total client satisfaction. We report our scrap rates to our converters, and we consistently beat their internal rates to far outweigh what we charge for our services.”
Pouch making at Atlapac isn’t without its challenges, however. In addition to keeping up with converter requests for faster turnaround time – something that Atlapac accomplishes by involving itself in the process from packaging design to final delivery – the company is also challenged by the proliferation of in-line FFS equipment.
“A brand or CPG can make the pouches in house on an automated machine,” Unrue explains. “Atlapac is overcoming these challenges by investing in new technology such as the Child-Guard slider, Straight Cut Zipper and, this summer, we will offer pre-made flat-bottom bags with other creative technologies.”
“Our workforce is trained to manufacture defect-free pouches and work with our quality team to ensure a closed-loop system for pouch quality conformance. Because we have a cross-trained operations team, we can platoon our workforce to reduce bottlenecks in our manufacturing footprint and will work with customers to fence in demand to less than one week lead time.”
That’s John Reiff, general manager of Schiller Park, Illinois-based Precision Pouches. As the company name implies, pouches are where this toll converter really shines.
“Our business was built on the high demands of the retort market, and having that DNA embedded in our team has programed Precision to work with an expectation of very high output rates, low scrap, quick turnaround and superior quality,” he continues. “This, in turn, builds value for our converting clients.”
Precision’s facility consists of four main work zones that focus on traditional standup pouches, inserted-bottom pouches, spout insertion and shaped pouches. Reiff says the company produces hundreds of millions of pouches each year with recorded reject rates over the past two years of 0.0018 percent and 0.0028 percent, respectively, including zero non-conformances.
“(We’re challenged) managing steady or fluid demand planning from our customers to ensure that we have the right staff in the right place at the right time,” Reiff says. “We consider ourselves a true extension of our customers’ finishing department, therefore we work diligently to over communicate with our customers to ensure that we are aligned on production priorities and are meeting the needs of their customers.
“We are excited about the growing space we are in and wake up every day with a focus on continuing to meet our customers’ challenges to help promote their success. When they win, Precision wins.”
Valley Packaging Supply
Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Valley Packaging Supply (VPS) has built quite the resume throughout its 64-year history. For starters, it makes pouches of all different styles, from three-side seal to standup to box, complete with zippers, tear notches, spouts and alternative closures. In total, it manufactures about 400 million pouches across more than 20 dedicated pouch lines each year for its 50-plus converters it works with throughout North America. But in its effort to act as an extension of its customers, VPS also offers testing and in-house toolmaking to help lower costs and accelerate lead times.
“We concentrate on and make ourselves experts in contract converting, so that converters can concentrate on their core business of printing and laminating films,” says Lance Czachor, VPS president.
No business is without its challenges, however. Shorter lead times, a lack of qualified labor and film issues are the three big challenges that VPS regularly deals with in pouch making.
How does the company handle these issues? Czachor explains:
“There isn’t much we can do about ever-shortening lead times, except to try to communicate to our customers as much and as early as possible regarding their jobs and where they fit in our schedule. Needless to say, our schedule is always changing. With unemployment in Wisconsin at 3.7 percent, there is a limited number of candidates that we are competing for, so competitive benefits and good working conditions are important. Lastly, film problems such as print, lamination or wind issues are a fairly common occurrence. We have created a whole feedback system, so that we can inform our customers of film issues as they happen. This helps to reduce waste and downtime, and minimize production disruption.”